Posts Tagged ‘Australian Labor Party’

Much to ponder. From rooster to feather duster in under a year?

Much to ponder. From rooster to feather duster in under a year?

 

Bad news for Tony Abbott and the Coalition continues today with the publishing of another poll that shows just how dramatically the Liberal and National parties have slumped since 2013′s election.

The latest poll shows the Abbott government is now a full 10 points below its election-winning vote. This is way beyond mere “out of honeymoon” blues.

The Newspoll, published in The Australian on Tuesday, puts Labor ahead of the coalition 55-45 per cent in the two-party preferred vote, a further depressing drop of two points for the coalition since the previous poll two weeks ago.

Primary support for the coalition is also down two points to 35 per cent, from 37 per cent, while Labor is up one point to 37 per cent – two points ahead of the coalition. This result would have seemed impossible in the dark days when Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd were engaged in their death struggle. It remains to be seen if Tony Abbott goes down in history as the only man capable of breathing new life into the Labor corpse which seemed crucified, dead, buried, with multiple stakes through it’s heart and then cremated such a short while ago. That they are even competitive again so soon is startling.

It’s not all good news for Labor. Outflanked on the left, the Greens have also gained three points in the primary vote – up to 13 per cent.

Voter dissatisfaction with Tony Abbott has reached the highest level since he became prime minister, 62 per cent, and is his worst personal result since November 2012, The Australian reports. With his approval rating at 31 per cent, Mr Abbott’s net approval of minus 31 points is the worst for a prime minister since Julia Gillard scored minus 34 points just days before she was replaced by Kevin Rudd in June last year, when she was widely considered to be leading the Labor Party to certain disaster. It will not have escaped Liberal and National backbenchers that Abbott now appears to be doing the same.

 

They also serve who only sit and wait. Is that just the hint of a smile?

They also serve who only sit and wait. Is that just the hint of a smile?

 

Whether Abbott’s vast slump into extreme unpopularity will prove enough of a motive for the hard heads in the Liberal Party to replace him with the much more moderate Malcolm Turnbull remains to be seen. We have always been of the view, even before the last election, that Turnbull would be Prime Minister before Christmas 2014. Abbott is both simply too relentlessly self-satisfied and negative to play the role of Prime Minister, a job which requires the ability to reach across the aisle to independents and natural Labor supporters to build a centrists’ coalition.

Abbot is not a conservative. He is not a “one nation” Tory. He is a radical right winger – a born-again Thatcherite, his idol in his youth. As such, he was never going to sit well in power with the essentially small-C conservative Australian public. We are seeing the hubris of Nick Minchin and others on the hard right coming home to roost. They wanted their boy – they got him up by one vote – and now he is proving to be manifestly un-re-electable. A great opposition leader doth not a great prime minister necessarily make. They might have won less big had Turnbull remained at the helm (they might have won bigger, too), but they would have won more enduringly.

Labor leader Bill Shorten has also regained a 10-point lead as better Prime Minister that he took after the budget – on 44 per cent, with Mr Abbott on 34 per cent. We do not believe he is yet “popular” – he has neither the common working man’s touch of a Bob Hawke or the swaggering certainty of a Paul Keating. But he has hardly put a foot wrong yet, revealing that he has both a good “ear” and a smart brain. His meek persona also contrasts nicely with Abbott’s arrogance.

It is well-known that Shorten wishes to keep his powder somewhat dry, and not to “knee-jerk” to every mistake or missed step from the Coalition. Thus former federal Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan played Shorten’s stalking horse yesterday when said Liberal-National Party backbenchers were too gutless to speak out against the “savage cuts” in the budget, which he sees as reflected in the Newspoll. “If they had any decency, they’d be standing up in the party room and holding the LNP to the promises they made to the people of Australia at the last election but they’re not because they’re gutless,” he told reporters in Brisbane. “There’s no spine in the LNP backbench either at the state level or the federal level. They sit back and meekly accept the savage cuts … which are going to hurt the peace of mind and welfare of families right across Australia.” You can expect to hear a lot more of that as each and every Budget action wends its way trhough the legislative process.

To be fair, Swan was probably speaking from the heart, too. As a Labor backbencher during the early 1990s, Mr Swan led a revolt against the Keating government’s unpopular post-election budget that increased taxes.

Anyhow, the next few months will be interesting indeed. From being one of the most successful Opposition leaders the Liberals have produced in a long time, Abbott may well go down as their most unsuccessful Prime Minister. A recalcitrant Senate filled with newly hopeful Labor and Green representatives is now replaced with one with even greater complexity. At first blush, the new Senate looks like a more amenable one for Abbott. But appearances can be deceiving. Clive Palmer, for example, knows full well that supine agreement with the Government – any Government – would render his populist message irrelevant. There’s no point being “anti” the establishment and then joining it, as the Australian Democrats discovered over the GST, and the Liberal Democrats in the UK and the Free Democrats in Germany can attest more recently.

We can therefore expect regular little eruptions of rebellion from Palmer and his mates, and watching his eye for publicity and gesture politics one can expect those rebellions to be on core issues, such as the politically smart agreement to scrap the unpopular carbon tax and return the dividend to ordinary voters as a reduction in household costs. And if they aren’t core issues, he will trumpet them as such, anyway. And every time he lays a glove on the Government, Abbott will not only look dumb, but weak. A terrible combination.

The essential problem that Abbott faces is that by manufacturing a financial crisis out of a structural deficit (which is not, after all, the same thing) he has critically reduced his room for manoeuvre. As a result, he is now stuck with slogging round the country telling everyone, basically, bad news, for at least the next 18 months.

He might even have pulled that off if his presentation, and that of his very lacklustre Treasurer Joe Hockey, had been less simultaneously preachily self-congratulatory and ham-fisted. But apart from his suddenly incoherent and uncertain delivery (has any senior politician anywhere in the world ever said “Er” so often?) he has also wedged himself by a serious of actions that were never going to get through the Senate, and which were guaranteed to appear mean and un-necessary.

The most obvious example is the GP co-payment, which looks and smacks like nothing more than soak the poor, and should never have been advanced in a month of Sundays. But once advanced, it was not “sold”, beyond a repeated mantra that this was somehow “for the good of the country”. Scores of worried little old ladies and the chronically ill duly queued up on talk-back radio stations of all political inclinations to tearfully ask what would become of them now they couldn’t afford to go to see their doctor. The message that the co-payment was theoretically designed to be capped at a maximum of $70 a year completely failed to cut through. Once again, the central Liberal Party message-meisters and their political puppets have been shown to be far less competent and aware than they are often painted.

Denis Napthine. If he's not careful, Abbott will do for him, too.

Denis Napthine. If he’s not careful, Abbott will do for him, too.

(A similar problem assails the Victorian Liberal and National Parties, where two years of good financial management and the resulting announcement of the biggest-ever infrastructure spending program in the State’s history – in any State’s history, actually – is being completely overwhelmed by the unpopularity of the Abbott Government. Liberal and National Party publicists seem at a loss to know how to punch their message through. (There’s a clue in this paragraph by the way, boys.) Meanwhile Denis Napthine despairs in his eyrie and Daniel Andrews hugs himself with glee, saying very little, cheerfully waiting to fall into office. But that’s another story.)

Those surrounding Abbott need to understand this: it’s one thing to drag down an unpopular Prime Minister in whom trust has been lost. It’s quite another to sell a swingeing austerity package that very few people think is needed in the first place.

They – and he – need to lift their game very fast, or yibbidah yibbidah, that’s all folks.

 

 

Abbott and his friends make their opinion of "temporary" tax increases very clear after the Queensland floods.

Abbott and his friends make their opinion of “temporary” tax increases very clear after the devastating Queensland floods. Now he proposes exactly the same idea.

We are on record as eschewing the general “bagging” of politicians per se, believing that some respect for our system of Government – some general belief that it is not entirely corrupted and merely the venue for amoral power-hungry sociopaths to do nothing but big note themselves and promote their career – is necessary for the well-being of the community and the country, but sometimes, even for a committed small-D democrat, it is very hard not to despair and simply scream incoherently “a plague on both your houses”.

It’s not just the nonsense they spout: it’s the nonsense they spout when they defend each other spouting nonsense.

If you give it, you have to take it. Abbott ruthlessly and effectively crucified Gillard. Is it his turn now?

If you give it, you have to take it. Abbott ruthlessly and effectively crucified Gillard. Is it his turn now?

In Australia, senior Liberal Christopher Pyne (or “Christopher Robin” as he is known in the Wellthisiswhatithink household, because of his repeatedly childish behaviour in Parliament and elsewhere) has denied that the introduction of a “deficit levy” – read, an extra tax to pay down debt – would be Tony Abbott’s “Julia Gillard moment”, (Julia Gillard being the immediate past Prime Minister, deposed by Abbott, who never got over being christened Juliar for bringing in a carbon tax when she had said pre-election that she wouldn’t), despite a majority of Australians saying the Abbott move would indeed be a broken promise.

Abbott promised repeatedly not to increase taxes. “You can’t tax your way to prosperity” was a mantra. So was “Tax cuts, without new taxes”.

Despite this, the Liberal-National coalition frontbencher played down the latest Galaxy poll, which showed a whopping 72 per cent believe the tax hike would indeed represent a blatant broken promise.

Australians know the government will have to make tough decisions to get the budget back on track, he said. “They know it won’t be easy and it is important that everyone shares in that burden of repairing the damage Labor did to the economy and to the budget,” Mr Pyne told ABC TV on Sunday.

The Australian Government can afford 58 of these, but needs a new tax to pay for the "budget crisis", and needs people to work till 70 till they get their pension, and is going to make wholesale cuts in the coming budget. When people work out that these are choices, and not inevitabilities, the backlash for Abbot could be horrible.

The Australian Government can apparently afford 58 of these, but now needs a new tax to pay for the “budget crisis”, plus it needs people to work till 70 to get their pension, and it is going to make wholesale cuts in the coming budget. When people work out that these are choices, and not inevitabilities, the backlash for Abbot could be horrible.

This is, however, in the face of the Government paying a massive $12.5 billion to buy new fighter jets, the serviceability and usability of which are the subject of on-going debate in defence circles as well as the country as a whole.

The contrast between “toys for the boys” and forecast swingeing cuts to welfare has brought the debate into sharp relief, not to mention damaged the Government’s standing.

It now trails the Labor Party that it just replaced by four percentage points. Two party-preferred support for the coalition has plunged 5.5 percentage points since the September election, with its vote now 48 per cent compared to Labor’s 52 per cent. Short honeymoon even by today’s low-attention ten-second soundbite standards of public discourse.

According to the poll, published by News Corp Australia, the Abbott government is facing a voter backlash over the possible new debt tax on those earning more than $80,000.

Certainly, the government has yet to confirm the deficit levy will be included in the May 13 budget but it seems that only a howl of outrage from the Australian middle class will prevent it.

But with huge – some would say laughable – bravado, the Prime Minister has said any levy would be temporary, and therefore wouldn’t break an election promise not to increase taxes.

So let’s just get that clear. If you only break a promise for a while, it’s not a broken promise, right? So what does it become? A bent promise? A slightly tarnished promise? Do we now have a whole new level of Government probity (or otherwise) to parse?

Mr Pyne went on to deny that a levy (read: a new tax) would be Mr Abbott’s “Julia Gillard moment” – a reference to the former prime minister’s broken promise on the carbon tax. “There is no easy way out from the debt and deficit disaster that Labor’s left us,” Mr Pyne said. “But what we do has to be fair to everyone, and it has to be right for the country. That’s the job of government.”

Newly-minted Opposition Leader Bill Shorten finally woke up from his slumber and weighed in. He said Labor would oppose a deficit levy, and urged the prime minister to drop the tax hike before next week’s budget.

“Increasing taxes on working class and middle class Australians is a terrible mistake, and people will not forgive Mr Abbott for breaking this very big promise,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Melbourne.

Whilst we find it somewhat stomach-churning to hear it from one of the core team who allowed wasteful spending to again become a way of life for Australian Governments – and who lacked the guts to challenge Gillard for the top job in time to actually repair Labor’s fortunes – we think he’s right.

Having allowed his plans to leak and become discussed, Abbot is now between a rock and a hard place. If he backs down on the new tax because his advisors reckon he can ride it out (or, more likely, are so deep in their bubble they fundamentally misjudge the anger it will cause) then he will be seen to be weak in the fight against the very fiscal crisis that he has promoted as needing fixing.

If he levies the tax, he will be pilloried for breaking the most fundamental pre-election commitment he made.

And in other commitments made pre-election, Abbott also locked in several “No Cut” promises leaving him, hopefully in this correspondent’s opinion, with even less wriggle room. Just take a look at this:

 

Right: noted.

Right: noted.

 

Against a backdrop of Coalition MPs privately venting that the new tax move was “Crazy”, and “Electoral suicide”, even the uncontroversial (generally) Sydney Morning Herald asked yesterday “Could it become known as the “Abbott moment”, when a prime minister cursed his political fate and consigned his government to one term? A big call, to be sure, especially so far out from the next federal poll in 2016.”

We are under no illusion. We think Abbott is about to hand the Liberal Party leadership on a plate to the man who should have had it all along, Malcolm Turnbull, were it not for the “hard right” putsch that idiotically deposed him in Abbott’s favour by a single vote. Not immediately, not in the very short term, but before long. You heard it here first. Our tip would be just before Christmas 2014, as it was even before Abbott won the General Election.

To misquote George Bush Snr, “Read my lips: no way out.”

Silly old sod is about the politest way we can put it.

Silly old sod is about the politest way we can put it.

Ex Prime Minister Bob Hawke has revealed himself as … well, you decide the epithet.

Why is a woman’s status as a mother still relevant to her career potential?

The infamous “Silver Bodgie” said that, while Tanya Plibersek was “a very impressive representative,” she may not be a candidate for Labor leadership as she has a three-year-old child.

“She could be a candidate for the deputy,” he told The Australian.

At the top of Bob Hawke’s list, however, is Bill Shorten. Who, er, just happens to have a three year old.

Go figure.

plibersekmem_narrow-300x0As a result, Destroy The Joint’s meme has enjoying a good run in social media.

It’s all academic, sadly, as Plibersek didn’t put her hand up.

We are actually rather sorry about that.

She’s articulate, hard working, attractive, coherent, compassionate, and wildly popular.

She has three children under the age of 13 and she’s been in politics since before her children were born, and managed a $5.1 billion health portfolio as a cabinet minister in the Labor government.

It’s reasonable to assume she’s got her share of her child-rearing sorted out.

The real point is, of course, that the comment made by Hawke would never, in a month of Sundays, be made about a man. Throughout the workforce, we bemoan the glass ceiling on women’s ambitions and careers, and then people make comments like this. They absolutely must not be allowed to go unchallenged.

Despite in other ways being a progressive modern Western democracy, Australia has now sunk to 45th position when it comes to representation of women in Parliament. Abbott’s cabinet has just one female member. Fewer than the cabinet in Afghanistan, as the ALP were delighted to report.

(Mind you, that is because the uniquely horrible Sophie Mirabella has now officially lost the seat of Indi, which only goes to prove there is a God. Or Karma is real, one of the two.)

Anyhow, now is not the time for women to be relegated to support roles. Nor is it the time for [insert your favourite expletive here] like Bob Hawke to talk such utter crap.

We were always Keating fans, frankly. As to whether we prefer Anthony Albanese or Bill Shorten to lead the ALP, we frankly are yet to decide. Both have their strengths, and weaknesses. We would, however, very much like the media to sort out the correct pronunciation of Albo’s surname. Is it “Albaneezeey” or “Albaneeze”? We think the people should be told. Fast.

So what do you think of Bob’s comment? Try and keep it nice. We do note he will be 84 in December. How ageist of us, before you say it. Shocking.

One of the funny moments of the night was my mate remarking "The bloody Abbott kids look like they're in a Robert Palmer video" and sticking the comment on Facebook. Next day, blow me down if that comment isn't an internet meme. Well done, Greg, I'm your witness.

One of the funny moments of the night was my mate remarking “The bloody Abbott kids look like they’re in a Robert Palmer video” and sticking the comment on Facebook. Next day, blow me down if that comment isn’t an internet meme. Well done, Greg, I’m your witness.

We are big enough at Wellthisiswhatithink to say when we got something wrong. And we did. We predicted a 6-7% swing to the Coalition over Labor, and it turns out, nationally, to have been about 3.5%. We thought we did detect a slight movement back towards the Government in the last couple of days, but not enough to alter our prediction significantly.

Well we should have. It looks like the ALP have done about seven seats better than we thought they would at their best.

So: to what do we credit the late Labor increase?

Possibly a sense from some voters, as they went into the polling booths, that they simply could not countenance voting for Tony Abbott. Possibly some intended to vote for the ALP all along but were too embarrassed to tell the pollsters that. Who knows?

Anyhow, it was still a bloody awful night for Labor, a very emphatic win for the Liberal/NP Coalition, and any talk that the ALP will find it easy to bounce back and win the next election is poppycock.

Labor is now a long, long way behind, and Abbott will have to make an absolute cock-up not to win re-election in 2016 or thereabouts.

Labor must use the interregnum to build a whole new party, with a clear idea of why it exists, and chock full of new talent, some of whom won’t even be in the Parliament yet. It needs to re-build itself as a major force, with a well understood purpose, and with infinitely more discipline than it has shown in recent years. And that’s just to be competitive.

The reason for Labor’s less-than-total-disaster-but-not-much-better result is essentially down to it doing better than expected in Queensland than expected, (including Wayne Swan and Kevin Rudd holding their seats), and in New South Wales, where a bunch of Western Sydney seats that should have fallen appear to have been heroically defended on the ground by their sitting MPs and supporters.

Maybe the Coalition wasn’t quite as aggressive as they should have been, and missed a chance.

Then again, Tasmania was worse for the ALP than we expected, South Australia about what we expected, and Western Australia better than we expected – this really was an election that proves what many have said before: all politics is local.

Anyhow, here’s where we were right or wrong on a seat by seat basis.

Richmond NSW GainedNAT 0.01%
The local Labor MP is popular and may resist the trend, but this is traditionally a conservative seat and we pick it to return to the Nationals.
What actually happened: WRONG Justin Elliott suffered about a 4% swing against her but held on gamely.

Barton NSW GainedLIB 0.1%
With well-known local MP Robert McClelland retiring and the less well-known Labor candidate up against a Greek-extraction local Mayor, Doc Evatt’s old seat will be one of the more painful losses of the night for the ALP.
What actually happened: DON’T KNOW YET Labor suffered a swing of nearly7% and are hangling on by the thinnest of threads – 62 votes – with 77% counted. There’s over 7,000 mainly conservative small party and independent votes left to count and 3,700 Greens. Will go down to the wire.

Werriwa NSW GainedLIB 0.3%
Martin Ferguson’s elder brother Laurie should be a shoe-in for this seat held by former Labor leaders Gough Whitlam and Mark Latham but it is another pick by us for a shock result in Sydney’s western suburbs.
What actually happened: WRONG Laurie Ferguson one of the Western Sydney warriors who kept the swing down below their margin. Re-elected.

Bass TAS GainedLIB 0.3%
Geoff Lyons turned this into a safe seat for Labor at the last election, but continuing economic malaise in Tassie and coming up against a decorated war hero for the Libs will probably see him off.
What actually happened: CORRECT Decorated war hero Andrew Nikolic grabs the seat away from Labor with a massive 10%+ swing.

Hindmarsh SA GainedLIB 0.9%
The precedent to look at here is the defeat of the Keating Labor Government in 1996. Redistribution has made it slightly safer for Labor recently, but it’s older population are even less inclined to vote ALP than everyone else. Opinion poll in late August had it at 50:50 two-party-preferred. Labor have gone backward since then: gone.
What actually happened: CORRECT Steve Georganis swept aside by the national mood, where others like Kate Ellis in Adelaide survived.

Perth WA GainedLIB 1.1%
Labor have parachuted in a popular ex State MP and Minister and this seat may buck the trend, but no one is sure how big Stephen Smith’s personal vote was. (Our guess, it will still go.)
What actually happened: WRONG Great work by outgoing MP Stephen Smith as campaign manager for Alannah MacTiernan sees her home by a comfortable margin. One of the best results of the night for Labor.

Chisholm VIC GainedLIB 1.2%
Ex-speaker Anna Burke is popular locally but Victoria is falling back in line with the rest of the country after its pro-Gillard performance last time, and an excellent ethnic-Vietnamese Liberal candidate and a clutch of stalking horse minor right-wing parties all preferencing him will see her gone.
What actually happened: WRONG Anna Burke’s personal popularity gets her over the line after all.

Oxley QLD GainedLNP 1.2%
Pauline Hanson’s old seat has more couples with babies than any other in the state: no doubt paid parental leave will resonate here. And both Katter and Palmer preferencing the Libs will make this just one more of the overall ugly picture in the Sunshine State for the ALP.
What actually happened: WRONG Chalk this one up for the “Who the hell knows, it’s Queensland not Australia” factor. One of the clutch of Queensland seats that should have been gone for all money, but wasn’t.

Fremantle WA GainedLIB 1.3%
Melissa Parke is attractive, popular and talented, with a very impressive CV: she may hang on: but we pick her to fall in Carmen Lawrence’s old seat, somewhat unfairly perhaps, to the country-wide Liberal/NP tsunami.
What actually happened: WRONG Rather pleased to see we got this one wrong, strong union ties in the docks area will have helped.

Rankin QLD GainedLNP 1.6%
Craig Emerson’s retiring, and this rock solid Labor seat falling will be one of the news stories of the night. It won’t help the new Labor candidate that he was a policy wonk and then Chief of Staff to Wayne Swan, a man now actively detested in Queensland, nor by both Katter and Palmer interfering.
What actually happened: WRONG Bizarre. Has to be called a shock. One wonders, frankly, whether the fact the Liberal National Party candidate was Asian counted against him …

Kingsford Smith NSW GainedLIB 1.8%
Another “shock horror” news story. Bye bye Peter Garrett. Bye bye seat.
What actually happened: WRONG Called for the Libs by insiders on the ground as recently as two days ago … but one of the unexpected Labor “holds”.

Dobell NSW GainedLIB 1.9%
Craig Thomson’s seat. Need we say more?
What actually happened: CORRECT No, we didn’t need to say more. Gone.

Parramatta NSW GainedLIB 2.6%
Nearly went back to the Libs last time. Will this time.
What actually happened: WRONG Still ultra-marginal but Julie Owens survives – just.

Eden-Monaro NSW GainedLIB 2.8%
Australia’s most reliable “litmus test” seat, having been won by the party that formed government at every election since 1972. It will be again.
What actually happened: CORRECT Popular local Labor man did his best and looked like he might hang on, but he hasn’t.

Blair QLD GainedLNP 2.8%
Labor’s Shayne Neumann is popular locally, but that won’t save him from the anti-Labor swing in Qld.
What actually happened: WRONG It did save him.

Page NSW GainedNAT 2.8%
Since 1990 the electorate has been another key bellwether seat, being won at every election by the party that formed government after the election. Sitting Labor MP Janelle Saffin is popular, but nothing will save Labor in NSW this time round.
What actually happened: CORRECT Another popular local Labor identity who performed creditably, but the seat heads to the Nats.

Lingiari NT GainedCLP 3.3%
Combattive ALP member Warren Snowdon might buck the trend in the seat with the largest percentage of indigenous Australians in the country. But we doubt it. Then again, the NT is a long way from anywhere. CLP candidate confident.
What actually happened: CORRECT Veteran Labor MP looks like he has lost. Still a sliver of hope, but fading fast.

Capricornia QLD GainedLNP 3.3%
Michelle Landry did well for the Libs last time in a seat with a large mining sector. With Labor MP Kirsten Livermore retiring, she’ll go one better this time.
What actually happened: DON’T KNOW YET Labor suffered a swing of nearly 8% and are hanging on for grim death – 140 votes – ahead as we write – with 79% counted. Lots of conservative minor party votes to be distributed, we still call this as a Liberal gain.

Brand WA GainedLIB 3.7%
Kim Beazely’s old seat has been going slightly bad for the ALP for a while. The decline will be terminal for Minister Gary Gray on Saturday. Late icing on the Liberal cake.
What actually happened: WRONG Gray’s experience will be back to help Labor re-build in one of the most important “holds” for them on the night. His excellent relations with the mining industry lends the ALp much needed credibility.

Lilley QLD GainedLNP 3.8%
You really think Wayne Swan can win his seat again? Really?
What actually happened: WRONG He really did. Rudd apparently limiting the swing against Labor in Queensland – theoretically – ironically saved one of Rudd’s most passionate opponents within his own party. Remarkable result for Swan personally.

Reid NSW GainedLIB 4.3%
John Murphy is an assiduously hard working local member in what should be rock-solid Labor territory. But we don’t think he can resist the swing … when it’s on, it’s on.
What actually happened: DON’T KNOW YET Really too close to call yet. Green preferences may see John Murphy back, but it’s squeaky bum time.

Petrie QLD GainedLNP 4.5%
One of the more re-electable ALP members, Yvette D’Ath still looks very likely to be swept away in the landslide.
What actually happened: DON’T KNOW YET Incredibly close. Suspect D’Ath will lose, but time will tell.

La Trobe VIC GainedLIB 5.3%
Redistributions, demographic change, and the national swing will see this seat return to its former Liberal MP, Jason Wood
What actually happened: CORRECT Brave fight by popular Labor candidate, but gone.

Banks NSW GainedLIB 5.6%
Only ever held by Labor since it’s establishment, the local state seats have already moved to the Libs, and Labor’s Daryl Melham cannot resist how badly the ALP are on the nose in NSW. Gone.
What actually happened: CORRECT One that didn’t survive for Labor.

Moreton QLD GainedLNP 5.9%
Doesn’t matter how many times electorate redistributions nudge the seat back to the ALP, it’s gone in the Queensland bloodbath this time for sure.
What actually happened: WRONG The story of this election is the number of Queensland seats Labor defended against the odds.

Lindsay NSW GainedLIB 5.9%
Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury has no Liberal cock-ups to rely on this time. He will be one of the early high-profile Ministerial casualties of the night.
What actually happened: CORRECT He was.

Robertson NSW GainedLIB 6.0%
Deborah O’Neill was one of the surprise winners for Labor at the last election, but there seems no realistic chance of her resisting the pro-Coalition swing this time.
What actually happened: CORRECT She didn’t.

Greenway NSW GainedLIB 6.1%
Despite Liberal candidate Jaymes Diaz stumbling early on, there seems no reason why this seat will not head back to the Liberals. His popularity with local branches will help him perform credibly on the ground. And it’s Western Sydney. Nuff said.
What actually happened: WRONG Seems like local people were watching. Classic train wreck.

Deakin VIC GainedLIB 6.4%
Will be one of the early gains for the Coalition. Always a Liberal-leaning seat, it’s a certain gain this time.
What actually happened: CORRECT Huge Liberal effort paid off. Actually, they probably didn’t win as big as they expected to.

Corangamite VIC GainedLIB 6.7%
Popular local TV presenter and activist Sarah Henderson will win this most marginal seat easily. Indeed, she could even win on first preferences.
What actually happened: CORRECT And she nearly did, with 48.22%. Rock solid win.

So. We were sort of right. And sort of wrong. A bit righter than wronger. Just.

Labor lost other seats we didn’t expect like Bass and Braddon in Tassie. And as we said, Kevin Rudd kept his seat, just.

Phew. Quite a trot. Well, we’re all Aussie politicked out for a while.

And if you’ll believe that, Dear Reader, you’ll believe anything.

(Tomorrow, we try and make sense of the Senate election for you – Ed.)

rudd sadA few people have asked us, following our slew of seat by seat predictions a couple of days ago, and the considered answer is “maybe”.

It is actually one of the great imponderables of the night.

The seat at over 8% ALP lead is outside our feeling for what the country will do as a whole (we’re thinking about a 6-7% swing – enough to deliver an Abbott landslide) and being Prime Minister should give Rudd some added kudos, but we also have a sneaking feeling people have really gone off Kevin ’13. Labor were on the nose going into the election. And they’ve gone backwards since it was called.

Why? Hard to be emphatic, but we do know this. People – especially those not “ironed on” to one side or the other – love voting to be on the winning side.

It’s been so obvious for so long that the Labor Party have lost this election that people are now busily abandoning the ship in their heads. Abbott has the “Big Mo” as the Americans call it, and Rudd now has a tag he has never really carried before. And that tag is “Loser”.

Shorn of any sense that he is a mystically successful electoral talisman for Labor who would have won easily in 2010 if he hadn’t been shafted by Gillard (a highly dubious assertion) there really doesn’t seem much reason to re-elect him personally. He’s only going to retire, anyhow.

Demographic changes contributed to John Howard losing his seat in the Ruddslide of ’07, it is true. But John Alexander’s subsequent re-taking of the seat shows that it was also very much about the people of Bennelong just being thoroughly sick of Little Johnny.

We’re guessing a little, and there is no poll data after August 22nd to back it up, but on balance we are prepared to stick the Wellthisiswhatithink neck out and say “Yes.”  Rudd will lose Griffith.

People will simply be glad to see the back of the Milky Bar Kid. We think. Maybe.

"I have seen the future ... trust me, you don't want to know."

“I have seen the future … trust me, Kevin, you really don’t want to know.”

We are on record as calling this election for the Liberal-National Coalition about two years ago, and at no time, even in the briefest of honeymoons enjoyed by Kevin Rudd after his re-election as Labor leader, have we changed our mind.

Accordingly, it’s a bit boring for us to say “Whoo-hoo, Tony Abbott’s going to win.” Blind Freddie knows Tony Abbott’s going to win.

But how big, hmmm?

Well, we are also on record as saying that this could be the worst result for Labor in living memory.

Current radio talkback scuttlebutt is predicting a Lib-NP coalition win with roughly a thirty seat margin. Say 90 seats to 60.

We’re prepared to go further than that.

We think the swing from Labor to the Coalition nationally could be as high as 7% overall, rarely lower, and in some places higher, meaning the final Labor haul could be as low as 40 up to 50 seats, and the Liberal-NP haul could be in the 100-110 ten seat area.

A win, in other words, of truly historic proportions.

Both options are currently paying just over three bucks on Centrebet – in other words, the market agrees with me. (Betting prices are always a great indicator of likely results, because the party apparatchicks supplement their earnings by betting on what they know the likely results will be.)

Does the size of the win really matter? Well, no, not really. Except that faced with such an utter repudiation, it is possible that Kevin Rudd will resign the Labor leadership immediately, where with a closer result he might have hung on for a bit to see what happened. Who will take over? Surely Bill Shorten, but then again, who really knows with the Australian Labor Party any more? Their dearth of Front Bench talent is quite scary. Anthony Albanese would be another possibility, but, excellent performer that he is, is he really alternative Prime Minister material? I doubt it.

Why do we think the result will be even worse than currently predicted? Well, bluntly, we think, when polled, many voters who are actually intending to very begrudgingly support Tony Abbott are simply too embarrassed to say so, but they are nevertheless determined to wipe the Labor Party from power this time.

So for the record, these are the seats I think the Coalition will gain – and there could even be more than this – listed here with their new Coalition winning margins. There will possibly be some real huge shocks, even bigger than some on this list.

If you happen to live in any of these seats, clicking the seat name will take you to a detailed breakdown of that seat. (Courtesy of the ABC’s consistently excellent psephologist, Anthony Green.) Or you can just read our rationale.

Richmond NSW GainedNAT 0.01%
The local Labor MP is popular and may resist the trend, but this is traditionally a conservative seat and we pick it to return to the Nationals.

Barton NSW GainedLIB 0.1%
With well-known local MP Robert McClelland retiring and the less well-known Labor candidate up against a Greek-extraction local Mayor, Doc Evatt’s old seat will be one of the more painful losses of the night for the ALP.

Werriwa NSW GainedLIB 0.3%
Martin Ferguson’s elder brother Laurie should be a shoe-in for this seat held by former Labor leaders Gough Whitlam and Mark Latham but it is another pick by us for a shock result in Sydney’s western suburbs.

Bass TAS GainedLIB 0.3%
Geoff Lyons turned this into a safe seat for Labor at the last election, but continuing economic malaise in Tassie and coming up against a decorated war hero for the Libs will probably see him off.

Hindmarsh SA GainedLIB 0.9%
The precedent to look at here is the defeat of the Keating Labor Government in 1996. Redistribution has made it slightly safer for Labor recently, but it’s older population are even less inclined to vote ALP than everyone else. Opinion poll in late August had it at 50:50 two-party-preferred. Labor have gone backward since then: gone.

Perth WA GainedLIB 1.1%
Labor have parachuted in a popular ex State MP and Minister and this seat may buck the trend, but no one is sure how big Stephen Smith’s personal vote was. (Our guess, it will still go.)

Chisholm VIC GainedLIB 1.2%
Ex-speaker Anna Burke is popular locally but Victoria is falling back in line with the rest of the country after its pro-Gillard performance last time, and an excellent ethnic-Vietnamese Liberal candidate and a clutch of stalking horse minor right-wing parties all preferencing him will see her gone.

Oxley QLD GainedLNP 1.2%
Pauline Hanson’s old seat has more couples with babies than any other in the state: no doubt paid parental leave will resonate here. And both Katter and Palmer preferencing the Libs will make this just one more of the overall ugly picture in the Sunshine State for the ALP.

Fremantle WA GainedLIB 1.3%
Melissa Parke is attractive, popular and talented, with a very impressive CV: she may hang on: but we pick her to fall in Carmen Lawrence’s old seat, somewhat unfairly perhaps, to the country-wide Liberal/NP tsunami.

Rankin QLD GainedLNP 1.6%
Craig Emerson’s retiring, and this rock solid Labor seat falling will be one of the news stories of the night. It won’t help the new Labor candidate that he was a policy wonk and then Chief of Staff to Wayne Swan, a man now actively detested in Queensland, nor by both Katter and Palmer interfering.

Kingsford Smith NSW GainedLIB 1.8%
Another “shock horror” news story. Bye bye Peter Garrett. Bye bye seat.

Dobell NSW GainedLIB 1.9%
Craig Thomson’s seat. Need we say more? 

Parramatta NSW GainedLIB 2.6%
Nearly went back to the Libs last time. Will this time.

Eden-Monaro NSW GainedLIB 2.8%
Australia’s most reliable “litmus test” seat, having been won by the party that formed government at every election since 1972. It will be again.

Blair QLD GainedLNP 2.8%
Labor’s Shayne Neumann is popular locally, but that won’t save him from the anti-Labor swing in Qld.

Page NSW GainedNAT 2.8%
Since 1990 the electorate has been another key bellwether seat, being won at every election by the party that formed government after the election. Sitting Labor MP Janelle Saffin is popular, but nothing will save Labor in NSW this time round.

Lingiari NT GainedCLP 3.3%
Combattive ALP member Warren Snowdon might buck the trend in the seat with the largest percentage of indigenous Australians in the country. But we doubt it. Then again, the NT is a long way from anywhere. CLP candidate confident.

Capricornia QLD GainedLNP 3.3%
Michelle Landry did well for the Libs last time in a seat with a large mining sector. With Labor MP Kirsten Livermore retiring, she’ll go one better this time.

Brand WA GainedLIB 3.7%
Kim Beazely’s old seat has been going slightly bad for the ALP for a while. The decline will be terminal for Minister Gary Gray on Saturday. Late icing on the Liberal cake.

Lilley QLD GainedLNP 3.8%
You really think Wayne Swan can win his seat again? Really?

Reid NSW GainedLIB 4.3%
John Murphy is an assiduously hard working local member in what should be rock-solid Labor territory. But we don’t think he can resist the swing … when it’s on, it’s on. 

Petrie QLD GainedLNP 4.5%
One of the more re-electable ALP members, Yvette D’Ath still looks very likely to be swept away in the landslide.

La Trobe VIC GainedLIB 5.3%
Redistributions, demographic change, and the national swing will see this seat return to its former Liberal MP, Jason Wood

Banks NSW GainedLIB 5.6%
Only ever held by Labor since it’s establishment, the local state seats have already moved to the Libs, and Labor’s Daryl Melham cannot resist how badly the ALP are on the nose in NSW. Gone.

Moreton QLD GainedLNP 5.9%
Doesn’t matter how many times electorate redistributions nudge the seat back to the ALP, it’s gone in the Queensland bloodbath this time for sure.

Lindsay NSW GainedLIB 5.9%
Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury has no Liberal cock-ups to rely on this time. He will be one of the early high-profile Ministerial casualties of the night.

Robertson NSW GainedLIB 6.0%
Deborah O’Neill was one of the surprise winners for Labor at the last election, but there seems no realistic chance of her resisting the pro-Coalition swing this time.

Greenway NSW GainedLIB 6.1%
Despite Liberal candidate Jaymes Diaz stumbling early on, there seems no reason why this seat will not head back to the Liberals. His popularity with local branches will help him perform credibly on the ground. And it’s Western Sydney. Nuff said.

Deakin VIC GainedLIB 6.4%
Will be one of the early gains for the Coalition. Always a Liberal-leaning seat, it’s a certain gain this time.

Corangamite VIC GainedLIB 6.7%
Popular local TV presenter and activist Sarah Henderson will win this most marginal seat easily. Indeed, she could even win on first preferences.

Anyhow. Please do not telephone after about 9pm on Saturday evening. We will be drunkenly incoherent at the prospect of a Government with a massive majority (always a bad thing in our view) which will be much, much more right wing than people realise. Just think, it if it wasn’t for the machinations of the likes of Nick Minchin, most of us could be even quite looking forward to the erudition and moderation of “small l” liberal Malcom Turnbull being PM on Sunday. O! May you rot in hell, Minchin! Slowly.

What will happen in the Senate is anyone’s guess and won’t be clear for some weeks. It is not impossible that we will have three essentially conservative independents delivering a majority of one to Abbott in the Senate, (with either Katter’s Party or Palmer’s Party picking up a Senator in Queensland at least), so he will be able to repeal the carbon tax over the head of Labor and the Greens whatever happens elsewhere. Much celebration will be had on the right of politics. That is by no means certain, however.

If that’s the case, the country will be left with an abiding problem. Climate change is not going to go away. Sans the carbon tax/price on carbon, international pressure will be brought to bear to ensure that Australia lives up to the carbon rebatement schemes of its trading partners. If we don’t have a carbon tax, then what do we have? Especially as the Coalition’s extremely expensive ‘direct action’ plan is widely considered unworkable and ludicrously expensive.

So. Last prediction for today? Expect to see some form of free market carbon-trading scheme introduced by an Abbott government inside the next three years. The very issue on which Turnbull was toppled.

Who’d be a politician, eh?

As for Labor, cue the most awful period of pained introspection a political party could possibly imagine. Labor has a dreadful paucity of talent, a miniscule and shrinking supporter base, is completely lost as to what differentiates it from the Liberals and Nats, and appears ever more comprehensively irrelevant. I have watched politics long enough to know that parties can and do bounce back from shocking election defeats, and sometimes surprisingly rapidly. But really: where is Labor’s Messiah? Where, even, is its light on the hill? To where does it turn it’s eyes, to which wheel does it place its shoulder?

Grim times indeed.

(For overseas readers who are not obsessed with Australian politics, Minchin was the eminence grise and now retired Senator who was behind the party room coup that toppled popular Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull and replaced him with hard-right Tony Abbott by a single vote. If he’s on a TV panel on Saturday night I will throw a shoe at the screen or worse.)

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English: Kevin Rudd, 26th Prime Minister of Au...

Kevin Rudd, 26th Prime Minister of Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes, when all is lost – as it surely is for Kevin Rudd and the Australian Labor Party – all artifice gets stripped away, and people speak with simple passion.

It is often seen when someone loses an election. Shorn of any need to obfuscate, they speak simply, from the heart, from their deepest convictions, and they move their audience much more than is common in today’s days of stage-managed soundbites and staying ruthlessly “on message”.

For that reason, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Kevin Rudd’s best speech ever is his concession speech this Saturday evening. Certainly better than his speech on taking power in 07, which was woeful.

Last night on ABC TV Kevin Rudd spoke from the heart on the issue of gay marriage.

It cannot have been easy for Rudd to change his point of view on this topic, as he did some five months ago. He is a regular Churchgoer in the most 1950s state in the Western world. Parts of Queensland make the Deep South of America’s Bible Belt look like a well-considered debating arena.

Nothing seems to obsess the Christian fundamentalist lobby like the issue of homosexuality, and, for that matter, sex generally. For all that pastors fulminate about sexual matters, they are hardly mentioned in the Bible at all, which is essentially either an historical record of the Jewish people, (the Old Testament) or the culmination of Messianic prophesy and the creation of a new covenant between Humanity and God (the New Testament). In reality, sex really hardly features at all. And homosexuality, as I explain in this article, may not even be mentioned in the Bible whatsoever.

The Bible, certainly the New Testament, is all about inclusivity, being slow to judgement and quick to love, and about caring for the marginalised in society. Faced with the staring-eyed intensity of a fundamentalist Christian last night, Rudd rose to the occasion rather splendidly.

If Rudd had found his “inner Rudd” weeks ago, even years ago, he might now be heading for an election victory. After all, the Australian economy is the envy of the developed world.

Sure, the man has huge character flaws, and simply doesn’t get on with people, as we have enunciated before. And the Government he led, followed by the one Gillard led, was unquestionably dysfunctional as a result, and he carries his own substantial share of the responsibility for that.

The result of that dysfunction – essentially, the inability to work together as a team, and to project the Government’s considerable achievements to the public in a manner that the public can consume – is about to deliver Australia holus bolus into the clutches of the most right wing front bench any Parliament in this country has seen since Federation. The cabal surrounding Abbott is ruthlessly hard-right economically and (though they seek to hide it) socially very conservative too.

Unless Abbott reinvents himself and his colleagues (and I will not be holding my breath) the wailing and gnashing of teeth will be substantial. Indeed, the rending of the Australian political character could well be as severe as that in Britain under Margaret Thatcher, but this time for no good reason other than the centre-left’s comprehensive loss of principle and direction. There is no rampant union movement in Australia, holding back productivity progress – very much the opposite in fact. Our industries have been ripened in the hot gale of worldwide competition since Keating and Hawke. Our public service is hardly bloated by international standards.

Anyway, we will put a prediction of the election result up before Saturday* to see if we can not only continue our much-vaunted tradition of calling every election in America, the UK and Australia correctly since 1978, but this time, as the consensus is that Abbott cannot lose, we will try to get the actual seat count right (as we got the electoral college vote right in the first Obama election, much to our pocket’s pleasure – and there are no bets being taken on Abbott’s victory any more, so maybe you can make a quid or two predicting the final seat count).

What is certain is Rudd will lose. He was always, probably, on a hiding to nothing. What is at least possible is that if he had more performances in this election like that in the video above, he might have had a chance. The history of Kevin Rudd, in many ways, will surely always be that of lost opportunity.

*The complete imponderable is which minor parties or independents will win seats in the Senate election. I won’t even begin to make a guess there, as divining the preference flow from the multiplicity of candidates is well nigh impossible. Anything could happen – the ballot paper in Victoria is over a metre wide!

Nope. Same old crap.

Nope. Same old same old.

I have written at length in the past on the essential tragic flaw in the on-going circus that is Kevin Rudd, which is basically, in my view, that he has a much higher opinion of himself than other people do.

With good contacts inside the Labor Party, I think the kindest thing I have ever heard said about him is “megalomaniac”.

The general public finds it difficult to appreciate that he is genuinely detested by many people whose support he needs – detested as too clever by half, too full of himself, and utterly selfish, not to mention seemingly devoid of the little personal courtesies that make up so much of what is required in leading any organisation, and a political party in particular, stacked full, as they are, with people who desperately want to be loved.

So what is the ultimate outcome of yesterday’s ALP chaos? Well, there are a number.

Greater love hath no man than he give up his friends for his life. – Jeremy Thorpe

Firstly, it is hard to over-estimate the level of betrayal and distress felt by those who campaigned for, publicly supported, and organised a ballot for Rudd to stand for the leadership. They report being “gutted” by his backdown.

The point about Crean publicly calling for a ballot for a man who he so publicly repudiated just a year ago was to allow Rudd to get past his previous commitment not to challenge a sitting leader. Let there be no doubt about this; Crean’s sudden exocet-like intervention in Labor’s leadership crisis was carefully co-ordinated with key Rudd backers, and obviously with Rudd’s knowledge, and implicit in the move was the assumption that Crean’s switch from Gillard would bring four or five votes with him, making the difference between just losing and victory for Rudd, especially as a couple of locked-in Rudd votes were overseas. This thing was on a knife-edge.

When it transpired that those votes possibly wouldn’t follow Crean – despite his desperately courageous intervention which was made, in his eyes, to prevent a debacle in September for the party he loves – Rudd was left looking at a small loss to Gillard.

And at that moment, with history watching, Rudd “bottled it”.

Despite not quite having the numbers he could (and perhaps should, depending on your point of view) have wounded Gillard fatally, and another ballot (in as little as a week, or ten days) would have delivered the leadership to him by acclamation, especially once his people had time to organise more thoroughly. In a Labor Party where the ferment rivals that of a good barrel of real ale left too long to bubble, no leader with Gillard’s poll ratings could possibly hold on with a majority of just a handful in caucus. Despite her famed Welsh stubborn-ness, events would have overtaken her.

A current Twitter tend is #SimonCreaned. How are the mighty fallen.

A current Twitter tend is #SimonCreaned. How are the mighty fallen.

But Rudd chose, instead, (and instead, specifically, of facing the ego-bruising experience of being rejected by his caucus colleagues for a second time, albeit temporarily), to wrap himself in the fallacious argument that he wouldn’t stand again for leader unless backed by an overwhelming majority of the party room. That was never going to happen, of course, he knew it in advance. It was merely a feeble excuse for a crucial loss of nerve. With the smell of blood in the air and alarums various all around, Rudd exited the battlefield, leaving his allies to be slaughtered in his stead.

In refusing at the last hurdle, Rudd reveals himself to this writer, at least, as a rather prissy and self-absorbed egoist without the guts to pursue high office with adequate determination. As those around Caesar tried to plunge in their gladius’s, Rudd tip-toed away rather than get splashed with gore.

Fulminating on the sidelines, smirking quietly to himself as others thrash around, yes, he is up for that. But when a return to power genuinely beckoned, and with it the opportunity to at least ameliorate certain disaster for Labor at the next election, he fatally let down his supporters, many of whose careers are now publicly trashed and seriously damaged, perhaps terminally.

In this loss of nerve, one can see clearly the little boy Rudd, the “Well, if they won’t all play with me the way I want then I shall take my bat and ball and go home” Rudd. The hurt child that never quite grew up.

So the first outcome is this: Rudd supporters will not forgive him in a hurry, if ever. That obvious fact (and one can only imagine the recriminations afterwards) may be behind today’s prompt statement from Rudd that he will never stand for the leadership of the party again. Of course, no-one who has watched his behaviour over the years can give much credence to such an assurance. If the seals of office were waved under his nose again some nonsense about “the good of the party and the nation” would be cobbled together to allow him an intellectual excuse for running again. But in the meantime, brand Kevin is so tarnished as to be virtually un-burnishable. As Yoda would say, “Easy, it is, to give up the thing that no one wants to give you.”

So what the hell do we all do now?

More critically, the Australian people will be utterly dismayed. For reasons which are quite obvious – the fact that his original fall from power was seen by many as unnecessary and very poor form on behalf of the conspirators – and the fact that he clearly is clever and has a sense of purpose, curious though that sense may be – but most of all simply because he isn’t the fatally un-likeable Julia Gillard – Rudd retained the affection of many Labor supporters and non-aligned voters, and even some Liberals, especially those who dislike the rightward drift of their party. He straddles the centre ground of Australian politics in a manner which is always popular in this essentially small-c conservative nation.

Now he has betrayed not only his own supporters but all those in the country who are desperately distressed at the collapse of Labor as a viable vehicle for their aspirations and which is supposed to protect them from what looks like a highly ideologically-driven and – many suspect – brutally insensitive incoming Liberal-led Coalition.

Oh Lord, please help me keep my big mouth shut until September 15th. Amen.

If Howard was bad, they feel implicitly, then Abbott will be worse.

Despite his attempt to present a small target and to curb his wilder side, they perceive that he is Howard without the gravitas or the common touch, a nasty, gnashing, dyed-in-the-wool mis-truster of Government and the common people.

They see savage cuts coming, a return to workplace warfare, social conservatism, and all the baggage of class warfare resurrected again and aimed at those least able to defend themselves.

And above all, they know Gillard can’t beat him – after all, she’s failed to do so once already.

And against this prospect, Rudd chose to preserve his own sniffy dignity rather than chuck his hat into the ring after twelve months of making it perfectly clear to Blind Freddie he still believed in belonged in there.

Well, Kevin, Australians are not sophisticated political observers in the main – life is too wonderful, generally, to waste too much time pondering the goings on of the chattering political classes – but they can smell bullshit with dung-detectors that are as finely attuned as any in the democratic world. And they don’t like wimps.

The national character is, ferociously, to stand up for what you believe, even if you’re going to get a thumping. (One reason that Malcom Turnbull is so widely respected.)

Overnight, therefore, Rudd will have ruined his public standing, and again, probably, terminally. I expect to see that reflected in opinion polls within a day or so.

Goodbye, Labor, it was nice knowing you. At least sometimes.

The last and most obvious result from the non-ballot yesterday is that Labor has revealed it would much rather lose the next election, even catastrophically, and retreat to the Opposition benches than hold its collective nose and re-install Rudd. The ultimate conclusion to be drawn by observing the inwardly-focused bubble that is most of the ALP caucus is that they, too, lost courage at precisely the moment they needed to find some, and returned, instead, to their predilection for childish in-fighting and sophistry.

Such holier-than-though Kamikaze behaviour is more common on the left than it is on the right, which tends to be more focused on power and concomitantly less concerned with the close niceties of policy. (The recent furore over carbon trading that saw Turnbull axed was an aberration and more to do with factional infighting than anything else.)

Parties on the left often seem to emulate the suicidal tendencies of the People’s Front For Judea in the movie “Life of Brian”, where the ultimate goal is to dramatically eviscerate oneself as a noble gesture.

Some time back this mindset saw the demise of the Australian Democrats, and thus the inevitable rise of the much more “deep green” Greens, which has had a profound effect on the Australian body politic. Lord knows what the impact of this decision on the ALP itself may be in the long run, but some form of realignment on the left and centre is certain not beyond the bounds of possibility, especially give the ossified nature of the ALP organisation and its falling membership, and the lurch to the right of the Liberals in particular.

Actively mistrusted, even hated. I have never, in 35 years, heard it expressed so vehemently.

Let us call a spade a f****** shovel: in more than thirty five years of active involvement in left-centre politics, either as a participant or a writer, I have never experienced a mood in a country more toxic for the leadership of the Parliament than I now do with Gillard and Swan and their immediate coterie.

Ironically, it is not just the memory of the original Rudd knifing, unpopular as that was, nor is it the stumbling from embarrassing gaffe to gaffe that has characterised so much of this hamstrung Government, that has caused the complete loss of faith.

In fact, ” ordinary people” know the Government has tried to do some good things.

But there has been a comprehensive failure to sell those initiatives to the public.

And past all the spin doctors, the advisers, the apparatchiks and the offsiders, the ultimate responsibility lies with Gillard and Swan themselves, and especially with Gillard.

It is not enough to have advisers. One has to take their advice. Way back in the days of Gillard v Abbott Mk 1 we saw this uneasy arrangement with the apparent dumping of presentational advice that wasn’t working and the hilarious emergence of “real Julia”. Someone told her that was a good idea. Really.

To my eyes, Gillard has never really recovered from that moment onwards. Apparently untrusting of whatever advice is on offer (at least, by observing her behaviour), she has consistently refused to moderate her tedious, lecturing, uninspiring and downright boring delivery of everything she has to say, both inside and outside the Parliament.

Hers is a failure in many areas and at many levels: a failure to control her own party, a failure to see beyond her own intellectual priorities to respond to the desires of the country, instead choosing to do things she knows need doing, (and, yes, good on her), but then failing to understand that the country needs to be taken with her.

That’s why most of all hers is a failure to recognise that the Government’s primary weakness was and is her inability to articulate in an easy and engaging manner what she was trying to achieve.

having teeth pulled without anaesthetic.

For anything other than complete political junkies, this is the enterainment equivalent of having teeth pulled without anaesthetic.

I have watched pubs and living rooms erupt into bile every time she comes on the TV screen – “God I hate the way she talks”, “F***, she’s so boring!”, “What is she droning on about this time?”

And the trend has got steadily worse. When she finally allowed some genuine passion to show throw – over Abbott’s misogyny – she saw an immediate lift in her polling, and even murmurs of approval.

She became, momentarily, ” Prime Ministerial”.

But then she promptly returned to the tones of exactly what she is underneath whatever gloss her minders try and put on her, an overly self-confident lawyer trained to couch everything in terms stripped of any passion or colour, and delivered in a manner so downbeat one often wonders if someone should check her pulse.

Even Margaret Thatcher, unquestionably the most transformative post-war politician in any major Western democracy whatever one thought of her policies, took note of the image consultants, the voice trainers, and those who taught her the pace, tone, and mannerisms to deliver powerful public oratory. Gillard has never paused to do this, never lowered herself to that level, and she has led her party to the slaughterhouse as a result.

Ultimately, in failing to improve herself, Gillard has shown a fatal inability to lead.

Now, as the nominal head of a caucus stripped of key talents, a caucus half of whom now publicly believe she is the wrong person to do the job – all talk of “no opposition” and a decisive result is, of course, just so much cant – without a credible candidate to oppose her to take the party into the election, with a slavering Opposition dissolving into delight at the mess in front of them, with a public in disbelief at the antics of the last 48 hours, let us be in no doubt. Barring a miracle which no one expects, Labor is looking down the barrel of a massively awful election result.

How curious it must be, for those MPs sitting in seats with anything under about a 10% margin, to contemplate the near certainty of their defeat in September. How they will be scrambling for diplomatic postings, something nice at the UN of WHO, perhaps, a decent visiting Professorship at a reputable University, or a sinecure in some quasi-Government or policy job just beyond the clutches of the incoming Coalition.

Will they be focusing on their jobs as constituency MPs or Parliamentary officers between now and September? Will they hell. The rats aren’t just deserting a sinking ship, they’ve been off it and swimming to shore for some time. And everyone knows it.

The point.

For democracy to function, it requires at least two parties operating with vibrancy and determination, a genuine “contest of ideas”.

Even non-Labor people must look at the overall state of our body politic and wonder, sadly, “How the hell did it ever come to this?”

Because that is  the ultimate wash-up of the ballot-that-never-was. How the hell did our democracy ever become so dysfunctional and incompetent?

And that, Dear Reader, should concern everyone.

Good decision? Bad decision? What do you think?

Good decision? Bad decision? What do you think?

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has called a general election for 14 September.

Ms Gillard said that she would ask Governor-General Quentin Bryce to order parliament be dissolved on 12 August.

She said the announcement – fully (and historically – this has never been seen before) – eight months in advance – was “not to start the nation’s longest election campaign – but to help businesses and individuals plan their year.”

Ms Gillard leads a minority government – in itself an historical anomaly in Australia – that relies on independents to survive.

Speculation will be rife as to why Gillard has made this bold and unheard of move. Wellthisiswhatithink will bring you the best of the coverage – and our own thoughts – when we have had a chance to digest this most unexpected news.

 

About two hours into the count, and early booth results imply a swing away from Labor to the Greens, but its patchy: it looks like it’s probably enough for the “third party” to take the seat, but it also definitely looks like it will be close.

This confirms my prediction of a very narrow Greens victory, on preferences. However, preference flows will be crucial, and they are fiendishly difficult to predict with a field of 16 candidates, and at least two of the minority candidates being well known. Of the popular independents, one is a Liberal member and preferencing Labor, and one, the Sex Party candidate, is also preferencing Labor. So the ALP could squeak in, too, with the help of a curious collection of friends. (Update, as at Sunday morning, it appears that this is the most likely result.)

Photograph of Malcolm Turnbull, New South Wale...

Malcolm Turnbull, New South Wales Liberal politician.

But in my opinion, whatever the final result is it will show no great enthusiasm for either the Greens or Labor. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see “Others” polling 20-25% of the first preference votes, and possibly even more.

Which leads me to conclude, once again, that there is plenty of room in Australian politics for a new party that is neither as mired in factionalism, corruption and lack of respect as Labor, as fanatically right wing and rat-baggery as the Liberal-National Coalition, nor as niche marketed as the Greens.

If Australia had a centrist, reformist, business-friendly, social-justice aware party which essentially believed in a mixed economy and high standards of public accountability, in my opinion it would be swept to power by a grateful public and with massive financial backing – and BOTH old parties would be swept aside.

What it needs is a leader.

Step forward, Malcolm Turnbull.

History awaits.

Lee Iacocca

Lee Iacocca - Henry Ford simply didn't "like him" - that was enough.

Lido Anthony “Lee” Iacocca was famously head of both Ford and then Chrysler after he was fired by Henry Ford II – grandson of the founder of the company – despite being probably the most successful Ford executive of all time – with the simple words “I just don’t like you.”

At the time, the move shocked the automotive world and the world of commerce generally. It was widely seen as a foolish move by Ford. But I have a great deal of sympathy with the decision.

Life is just too short to spend time working with people you “just don’t like”.

At the heart of such antipathy always lays other factors – unspoken perhaps – such as incompatibility on personal, ethical or business values, lack of trust, lack of mutual respect, and so on. The stress that results from accommodating such deeply felt emotions is rarely, if ever, worth the effort, for either protagonist.

I have have left jobs, and resigned business rather than keep working on it, no matter how lucrative the position or contract, because of an essential loss of confidence in the key players. Not capriciously – I am no tantrum-throwing diva – but thoughtfully, having weighed my deeper feelings against all other factors. And I have never once regretted the decision.

In today’s caucus vote, Kevin Rudd finally discovered, crunchingly, what it is like when “people just don’t like you”.

Despite opinion polls showing he would be more likely to defeat the Liberals at the next election, and that he was hugely more popular with the general public than Prime Minister Gillard, he was not just defeated, he was roundly and thoroughly rejected. In the end, despite the Rudd camp’s spin, Gillard won the ballot 71 votes to 31.

In the news coverage of the last three days, cabinet minister after cabinet minister lined up to tell us, in excruciating and exhaustive detail, why Kevin Rudd was just one small step up from the anti-Christ. Either explicitly or by implication they branded him as dysfunctional, domineering, rude, non-consulting, mercurial, and borderline egomaniacal. As somebody has already tweeted to me, it’s a shame the Oscars don’t have a statuette for best soap opera, because The Public Murder of Kevin Rudd (Part Two) would have won hands down.

Rudd tears

Politicians love to be loved. It's a big mistake to forget that in a party-based system the love you need most is not the public's, but your colleagues'. The same is true in business. And families. If we can't keep the affection of those closest to us, then what everyone else thinks won't save us. Rudd is seen here after the leadership "coup" in 2010.

You can’t help but feel sorry for the guy. Perhaps.

It’s no doubt a hard lesson for Rudd to learn, because by all accounts he’s been avoiding learning it for his whole career. He was apparently widely disliked when he was an effective senior civil servant in Queensland. In a business not noted for shrinking violets, he was labelled as a pushy, self-aggrandising little oik long before the Labor caucus grudgingly turned to him as their best hope to overturn John Howard in ’07. They tolerated him, biting down on their bile. Then as soon as they thought things were going wrong they dumped him so fast, and so hard, that the public were shocked. But if the public had known how much they didn’t like him in the first place it would have come as no surprise at all.

Of course, admitting that would have been to admit that they had wrought a huge con on the Australian public at the election, so that wasn’t on.

As a result the public was left confused and resentful.

But Rudd should have been left in no doubt what he’d done wrong. Labor caucus members certainly knew. Instead, if we are to believe his public utterances, he chose to re-make reality in his head, (and so did his advisors), and interpret his overturning by Gillard as merely the result of factional brawling and the ambitions of so-called faceless men, and the perfidy of his deputy.

My old Mum would have said “there’s none so blind as those who will not see.”

(Incidentally, in retrospect, the 2007 election, which was then and is still now often widely referred to as a triumph for Rudd’s campaigning skills, would probably have been won by a drover’s dog with a Labor rosette – the punters were simply sick of Howard’s smug little face. But that’s a different discussion.)

This is the lesson. It’s not how smart you are. It’s how likeable you are.

Likeability

Likeability ... it's always there, shadowing us, and it determines our success.

The short story is that there comes a point at which you can’t keep alienating the people near you and then expect them to support you, no matter how competent you may be, (and no one denies that Rudd has talents), because when push comes to shove if we’re going to put our trust in someone it has to be someone, at gut level, that we like.

A Columbia University study by Melinda Tamkins shows that success in the workplace is guaranteed not by what or whom you know but by your popularity.

In her study, Tamkins found that, “popular workers were seen as trustworthy, motivated, serious, decisive and hardworking and were recommended for fast-track promotion and generous pay increases.

Their less-liked colleagues were perceived as arrogant, conniving and manipulative. Pay rises and promotions were ruled out regardless of their academic background or professional qualifications.” Ouch.

The Gallup organization has conducted a personality factor poll prior to every presidential election since 1960. Only one of three factors – issues, party affiliation, and likeability – has been a consistent prognosticator of the final election result.  Of course, the factor is likeability. (Note that Obama is effortlessly more likeable than any of the Republican candidates still standing, except perhaps Ron Paul, who is widely considered mildly nuts.)

Think none of this affects you because you’re not in business or politics? Nu-uh.

Doctors give more time to patients they like and less to those they don’t. According to a 1984 University of California study, there were significant differences in treatment, depending on the characteristics of the patient: the combination of likeable and competent was significant.  Patients perceived as likeable and competent would be encouraged significantly more often to telephone and to return more frequently for follow-up than would the patients who were either unlikable and competent or likeable and incompetent. The staff would educate the likeable patients significantly more often than they would the unlikable patients.”

In a survey of twenty-five hospital doctors initiated by Roy Meadow, a pediatrician at St. James’s University Hospital in Leeds, England, researchers studied what happens when both likeable and unlikable parents bring in children. Considering what you’ve already learned about likeability, it’s not surprising that children with likeable parents received better health care and were more likely to receive follow-up appointments.

I’m guessing the same can be said of schools.

Sooner or later, history shows us that the vast majority of disliked people come a cropper. Being liked is simply a pre-requisite for success, in all spheres of life. I am sure we can all think of contrary examples where fear, for example, was enough to keep the troops in check, but I am obviously speaking in broad brushtrokes here. In a future article, I will rehearse some of the components of likeability, because the good news is that they are skills that can be learned, not innate abilities.

We don’t just have to be grinning, amiable idiots all the time.

Readers will note that I isolate likeability as the key survival factor: I do not say “being agreed with”. We can disagree with people and still like them. In fact, the opposite is true: good governance, in business and politics, demands that we disagree with people when we genuinely perceive risk in their opinion or behaviour.

But the Labor caucus didn’t just disagree with Kevin Rudd – in fact, ironically, many of them may have agreed with his essential analysis, which is that Gillard cannot beat Tony Abbott – although in my view, the jury is still out on that, as I have lived long enough to know that if a week is a long time in politics then 18 months is a lifetime and a half. No, it was about much more than whether they agreed or disagreed with him.

These people, who take their opinions from having actually met the guy – worked with him, dined with him, drunk with him, walked with him, sat in cars with him – unfiltered through spin doctors and media appearances – actually loathed him so much that they would rather struggle on with the Government’s current level of performance than return to the smiling Milky Bar Kid, even if the cost was their own seat in Parliament.

Now that’s disliking someone.

A public suicide. Messy, sad, and ugly.

I never thought Kevin Rudd was ever going to beat Julia Gillard today – that was the genius of the Gillard camp in forcing his hand and bringing the spill on, by letting a rumour getting about that he was about to be sacked anyway – but it was almost as if, in the last few days, Rudd was intent on some sort of phyrric suicidal exit on his own terms.

He was determined to face down those who didn’t like him, by virtually ignoring them and appealing over their heads to the public. “Ring your local MP and tell him or her you want me back” he said (I paraphrase) instead of simply picking up the phone and calling the MPs concerned and having a good chat.

He was never going to get enough votes – he must have known that in advance, surely? – but he could have perhaps reserved his place in Labor history and even partially rehabilitated himself if he had gone down the road of “Mea culpa, I stuffed it up last time, how can I do it right for you this time?” and actually meant it.

Instead, by pressing the flesh in shopping malls and working the ever-hungry meeja for all it was worth, Rudd merely confirmed Labor MPs suspicions. He didn’t really think he’d made any mistakes at all, despite a few mealy-mouthed mumblings to that effect on TV. And he also he left an abiding impression: “this bloke doesn’t like me, need me, respect me, or want me. Righty ho, he can have that back, in spades. I’m voting for Gillard, even if that does mean I am a turkey voting for Christmas.”

As a serious political force in Australia, Rudd is now finished. There will be no Lazarus rising, not even Lazarus twitching. I expect to see him foisted on the international community in some major role – or at some serious policy wonk think tank – as soon as he can pull the levers of his impeccable overseas contacts, especially in America and China. The ALP will ease his way, glad to see the back of someone that they never really believed was one of their own. As Paul Keating once remarked, “He’s Labor, but not tribal Labor.” In the end, that’s what killed him: he just never really wanted to be one of the tribe, or was prepared to work at it, and they hated him for it.

Well, well. Moving on: Gillard will get a small bounce from her success today – in the last few days voters will have re-connected with her, grudgingly, with her guts, determination, refusal to get flustered, and inner steel.

All smiles - Gillard leaves the caucus meeting.

All smiles - Gillard leaves the caucus meeting. But what of tomorrow?

These are qualities we value in a Prime Minister, and Gillard, despite other failings, has them. But she now needs to learn Rudd’s lesson. She is widely disliked – mistrusted – and this time by the public. And they will be meeting in their very own caucus before too long. Many of Rudd’s criticisms of her will have rung true with people, even as they admire the way she stood up for herself. She has a tiny window of opportunity – which will start closing immediately – to radically re-make her government.

For example, she won’t – but she should – build on her new-found image of decisiveness by removing Wayne Swann as Treasurer, because although he is her ally and he is also technically competent he inspires no confidence whatsoever in the public in the second most important office in the land.

A dramatic, bold move would be to promote Swann’s mate Stephen Smith to Treasury – his quiet, serious demeanour goes over well and he has proven himself a highly effective Minister – and move Swann to Foreign Affairs, where he will still be in the inner circle, and can’t really do much damage, and where he already has good contacts to build on. Refresh, renew, revive. Show imagination. Show leadership.

Gillard

Can Gillard be saved from herself?

And most of all, she should employ new speechwriters, and professional speaking consultants, to utterly transform her dreadful, whining, monotonic delivery of both formal speeches and her performances in the Parliament.

It is always hard for pollies to hear this, (I speak from experience), but the public has long since gone past their gentle amusement at how staggeringly irritating her delivery is, to reach a point of genuine annoyance. Quite apart from any policy disagreements or trust issues, her flat, nasal tones, distractingly repetitive and unhelpful hand movements, lack of light and shade, and holier than thou seriousness make her genuinely disliked.

When the usual answer to the question “Would you have this person round for a beer and a sausage?” is derisive laughter, then you’re in real trouble. When you’re a politician, it’s terminal.

Frankly, I worry about the state of our public discourse in general. Because it’s not as though the other side are much better.

The widespread opinion amongst those I speak to – including Liberal supporters – is that Abbot is an unpleasant little blow-hard, transparently seizing any opportunity to personally denigrate the leaders of the Labor Party and to talk the country down. That this is a common mis-conception of the role of the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition is no excuse for the policy vacuum that the Coalition currently offers, and the apparent vacuum in the heads of most of its leaders. As I have said before, if Gillard does anything right at all in the next six months, expect to see Abbott replaced with Malcolm Turnbull, quick smart.

And the final wash up?

The ultimate question, I suppose, is this: in a country full of well-educated, intelligent, hard-working, charismatic people, why are we led by such donkeys? And when will we demand better of our leaders, rather than just grumble ineffectively about them? What is it that we are doing wrong, if, as I firmly believe, we get the politicians we deserve?

On May 17, 2007, when he was all of 83 years old, Iacocca published a book called Where Have All the Leaders Gone?, co-written with Catherine Whitney. An article with the same title, and same two co-authors, has recently been published. As we leave the circus of the last week behind us, there are wise words in it for all Australians to consider today. In the book, talking about the quality of Government in America at all levels, Iacocca wrote:

“Am I the only guy in this country who’s fed up with what’s happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we’ve got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can’t even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, “Stay the course.” Stay the course? You’ve got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I’ll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!”
Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard

Rudd and Gillard - this one could run and run. And if they don't, you know what? The other side could join in, too. Geez it'd be nice if they gave a toss about us out here in the real world.

So the Foreign Minister of Australia resigns in a fit of pique over criticisms that he is not being loyal to the Prime Minister – surely the worst kept secret in politics – and it’s on for man and boy as they say over here.

Well, woman and boy, actually, the woman being Julia Gillard, so recently fêted as Australia’s first female Prime Minister but now mired in accusations of incompetence – and Kevin Rudd as the boy she replaced when he in his turn was widely considered incompetent, and I say “boy” because he really does look like nothing more nor less than the Milky Bar Kid, which is very cruel for a man of some standing and intellect, but really quite amusing all the same.

So, we have a spill at the Labor caucus next week, and now the meeja blather on ceaselessly about the “leadership crisis” in the Labor Party, boring the pants off everybody except the politicians themselves and a tiny minority of political junkies and apparatchiks.

But to my mind, we do not have a leadership crisis in Canberra. We have an un-leadership crisis.

And ironically, it is not restricted to the ALP.

Whoever wins the caucus vote next week will get an opinion poll bounce – you watch – plucky little Kevin because he is undeniably more popular with the electorate anyway, who feel he was treated shabbily when they got rid of him, (conveniently forgetting that he was got rid of because the public were bucketing him in opinion polls), or “real” Julia, for successfully rallying her troops and finally showing some grit and mettle of her own.

And when that happens, expect the hard heads in the Liberal Party to start taking a long and detailed look at the relative popularity of their leadership options – Messrs Abbott and Turnbull Esq – versus whoever is Labor leader.

Think the faceless men of the Labor Party are ruthless? I reckon the top end of town leave ‘em for dead. If there’s the tiniest inkling that the Mad Monk (aka current Liberal leader Tony Abbott, he of handlebar ears, ridiculous swimming costumes, and extreme right wing Roman Catholic-tinged views) could fall at the final hurdle then he’ll be replaced by telegenic moderate Turnbull faster than you can say “well, Abbott only won by one vote last time”.

Meanwhile the voters deal with ever rising cost of living pressures and look nervously over the horizon at the chaos in Europe and the USA and – quite rightly – mutter angrily that their political masters simply don’t live in the same anxious country as them.

Same country? They barely inhabit the same planet.